It's safe to say by now that Chickasha will have much to look forward to when the real seasons kick off for baseball and softball.
The summer has provided a clear enough window into how the teams shape up going into their respective seasons, and youth is a common factor. Unfortunately, with the upside of longevity with a young team comes the downside that youth often breeds inconsistency. Some of that was evident in both teams' summer seasons. It begs the question of who will be able to take what they've achieved this summer and translate it to a better season.
My vote has to fall on the ladies' side, and for good reason.
Looking at the Fightin' Chicks baseball team, I see many good things. They'll have two fantastic fielders and batters in Luke Dixon and Derek Sullivan, seniors that will no doubt be responsible for leading the team. Their absence from the recent Chickasha tournament was evident, while the young squad that defended the Chicks' home turf did a decent job to fill that gap.
As was pointed out earlier this summer, Brock Henderson is the archetype star in the making. He has the talent, he's shown it this summer and with a top-ranked tournament team in the Oklahoma Cardinals, and he has bravely taken on the ranks of high school ball with the utmost confidence. Mainly a pitcher, he showed throughout the summer, but mostly over the past few days, that he can easily switch and do just as good a job at third or shortstop. Versatility is in his blood, and his performance at the plate points to Henderson's all-round baseball abilities.
But, as I said, his main job is pitching. Combined with other young players like Brooks Bush, Brandon Shumway and Braden Beldin, this is a very youth-filled rotation. Against Binger, Henderson, undoubtedly the leader of the stirling line of prospects, showed he still has a little more learning to do after the Bobcats took a 7-0 lead out of the first two innings. In the story I wrote about him, Henderson said he has been working on developing a larger variety of pitches to get around situations like this. That development continues.
When it comes to youth, the Fightin' Chicks seem to be relying on more of it. Sure, it is a great foundation for a team, and by no means do I think they will have a season to forget. But, my money is still on softball.
Last fall, the Lady Chicks reached the state final with a freshman pitcher in Gore, and they have retained almost all of their team. Their line-up of Gore, Snyder and Keeley Cauthen provides a great backbone to a talented squad.
Gore is also lethal from the plate, a great power hitter to balance the opening line-up with the more experienced Tawn Neidy and Shorty Clift. Throughout the batting order, players like Tristin Watkins, Tori Smith, and Amanda Bradford can make it difficult for teams to catch a break. In the Lady Chicks, you have a team that is more than capable of stringing together hits multiple times in a game, and that is nearly impossible to defend.
Again, this has not been the case all summer. Even head coach Dennis Furr has admitted he knows his team can hit the ball, but often times make it difficult for themselves. But, the late surge of offense cannot be ignored, especially when it continued on Chickasha's trip to Denver. This team is on a high, and the summer has provided them great momentum with the start of the season not all that far away.
There is a drive in the entire team to go one better this fall and lift the national title. After coming so close last season and many of the players knowing the pain of just barely missing out on a coveted trophy, they'll be doing everything they can to make sure it doesn't happen again.